Jonathan Scott's Power Trip
In Jonathan Scott's Power Trip, the HGTV home makeover guru shines a light on the obstacles and opportunities for America’s solar industry, following fossil fuel monopolies that halt the growth of renewable energy while visiting with politicians, coal miners, solar panel installers, the Navajo Nation building its own solar plant, and others at the forefront of the battle for energy freedom.
- We have set here and watched ou r farms deteriorate.
We've watched our kids leave,
and solar, it could help us down here.
- Solar power is a proven jo b creator
and it lessens our dependence on fossil fuels.
What's preventing everybody from having this?
- This is a big threat.
- With electricity in most of the country,
you really only have on e choice.
- They want to stop competition from solar.
- They're one of the more powerful
lobbying organizations. - Why should some company
get a monopoly on that? It's obscene.
- I'm not the only one in the South
that's a Conservative that loves solar.
- But there's a economic an d health justice issue
embedded in not having access to solar.
- "Jonathan Scott's Po wer Trip."
Now only on Independent Lens.
[mellow guitar chords]
- What's up, big guy?
- The day I did my so lar install,
I remember thinking, "M an, I have never seen
this many smiling faces on a construction site,"
and I've been on a lot of them.
- Hey. - Hey, no worries, thank you.
- Appreciate this. - Yeah.
- Come on. Just stack it.
- You could tell th ese were people
who were working for mo re than just a paycheck.
There was an energy an d an enthusiasm to them
like they knew their work wa s making a difference.
- Ha ha ha ha.
- I went into it with sheer op timism and excitement.
Okay, you guys have been busy up here.
You can put me to work.
- Yeah? - Whatever you need.
I couldn't believe ho w energized I was.
It's so funny, 'cause when I wa s a kid I had the calculator
that had just the little, tiny photovoltaic cell,
and that's what powered the calculator, and I said to Mom,
I'm like, "Why don't we power everything with this?"
And she said, "Well, you can't, not something that big."
This is gonna be a great th ing, so very excited.
What was impossible when I was a kid is possible now.
My whole house is being powered off of these, so it's like,
"What's preventing everybody from having this?"
I had visions of solar panels on every roof in the country,
but within days, I realized my personal solar journey
would become the story of an entire system
built to keep us fr om having a choice
in the way we power our lives.
My name is Jonathan Scott.
Some of you may know me as the taller,
more handsome half of TV's ho me renovation heroes,
the "Property Brothers."
Some of you might not know me at all, and that's fine,
but you're here, so sit back and relax
while I tell you my solar story.
For 10 years, my brother and I have traveled the country
turning disaster houses in to dream homes.
- Jonathan and Drew! - The Property Brothers!
- Please welcome Drew and Jonathan Scott.
- If all that renovation ha s taught me anything,
it's that people us e a lot of power.
From the moment we climb out of bed,
we're connected to a world fed by endless amounts of energy.
I'm always trying to find ways to help homeowners save money,
and I quickly realized that th e booming solar industry
might have th e perfect solution.
- Solar energy is the wave of the future.
- Solar is growing faster
than most industries across the country.
- Solar energy is becoming mo re and more popular
and more affordable. - All right.
So I decided to try it myself.
It's just so simple. In less than a day,
my roof was covered in panels,
and I immediately saw my energy bills plummet.
I was creating so much energy,
I could actually make money
off that giant ball of gas th at shows up every day,
but as soon as I started to soak up the sun,
my hopes were smashed.
Someone somewhere was not on ly killing my solar dreams,
but they were making money se lling the energy
I paid to produce.
Sadly, like millions of solar users,
I faced the harsh reality
that when it comes to choosing ho w we power our lives
and truly ha ving energy freedom,
this country has a long, lo ng, long way to go.
- The folks here in our valley
are fuming over the latest change with solar rates.
- Many in the solar industry
say the deck is stacked against them.
all: We want freedom!
- Just like me, thousands of Nevadans were outraged
that somebody else wa s making money
off the solar energy we pay to produce.
- We want them to see just how many people
care about solar and energy freedom.
- Solar customers in Nevada
now blasting th e state's decision
to phase out net metering, th e incentive program
that reimbursed residential cu stomers at retail rates
for excess power generated by their rooftop panels.
- In 2016, the Nevada Public Ut ilities Commission, or PUC,
rolled back a program th at made solar power
a financially viable option
for thousands of solar customers.
So you're a homeowner th at's decided to make
solar power your choice fo r energy generation.
Every day, you harness th e sun to create power.
Any of that power yo u don't use
goes back in to the electrical grid,
and with net metering,
you receive a credit fo r that excess power,
which reduces your bill.
- Dr. Sullivan interview. Mark.
- Years ago, the price for producing solar energy
was through the roof. Only environmental fanatics
would think about investing in solar energy.
- It rises like a mythical mu shroom out of the pines
and palmettos of South Dade.
Is it a home for a Hobbit or a druid convention hall?
Solar panels are an integral part of the home.
The future could very well lo ok like this.
- It really wasn't profitable.
They were doing this because th ey were the kind of bearded,
excuse me, California types.
They figured, "Solar energy is just cool,
"and I'm going to do this because I'm going to
thumb my nose at the oil guys," right?
But when net metering started,
you could actually bring yo ur bill to zero...
- Solar power is getting ch eaper and cheaper,
which means the way yo u get electricity,
it could ostensibly change forever.
We have a chart th at shows how solar power
is going to overshadow ex isting coal and gas plants.
- Net metering laws ar e a part of the fuel
that fired up demand fo r solar panels.
The number of houses pr oducing solar in states
where net metering wa s in place skyrocketed.
Some people in areas dr enched with sun
were zeroing out their bills an d making a profit
from the solar cells on their roofs.
- Utilities are losing money
because now you and your house have control
over what electricity you use and from where.
- With billions at stake, ut ilities were fighting back.
all: We want freedom!
We want freedom! We want freedom!
- This is turning into a very serious, heated debate.
There were so many people at today's meeting,
some of them had to wait in the hall for their turn to speak.
- Existing customers are now being subjected
to unfair new tariffs
that will make our large investments worthless.
[applause] - Thank you. Thank you.
- Maybe we need to organize ourself and vote you out.
- Yeah! - Yeah!
- Yeah, Tricia, it was 5 hours of public comment,
but just about 5, 10 minutes ago,
the PUC voted to uphold the solar rate hike.
- The actions you're taking today
are taking from the mouths of the people
and giving it to a single monopoly utility!
You're stealing from the people
and giving to the rich!
You're like the anti-Robin Hoods!
- Yeah! [applause]
- So who is winning the fight ag ainst energy freedom?
- Believe it or not, th e biggest winners,
as a group, are utilities. Ye s, utilities.
- When most people think of public utilities,
we imagine no nprofit organizations
built to benefit yo ur community.
- Because Nevada is our home, an d we want what you want.
- Well, nothing could be fu rther from the truth.
- You like utilities?
- I love utilities. Last year,
we were up about 21% in our utilities sector.
- Utilities are sexy right now,
up 30% in the last 12 months.
- Virtually all utilities ar e private companies,
and they are definitely bu ilt for profit.
- I see the only guy who's buying utilities is Buffett.
- Warren Buffett, Be rkshire Hathaway,
will buy Nevada's largest utility company,
NV Energy, for $5.6 billion.
- All over the US, so me very rich people
are spending billions so they can make trillions.
- Solar panels could cost th ousands of jobs in Colorado.
- Today, Minnesota lawmakers ar e voting to abolish
a solar power subsidy program de spite objections from...
- The impending tariffs on solar panels
could cost thousands of jobs.
- The cost of going solar in Arizona,
that is going up.
- Power companies ar ound the country
are changing the rules,
making solar power an investment
that could take several li fetimes to actually pay off.
- It's clear to me
that the utilities reap al l the financial benefits
while we suffer th e consequences.
I want to find out ho w the system got so broken
because if the fight out there
is anything like Nevada, we 're losing.
- Welcome to the South.
You know, a lot of this part of the country
reminds me of where Drew and I grew up.
There's a lot of agriculture and a lot of farms.
I spent a lot of time on the ranch,
so I really feel like I know these people.
How long have you been running this piece of property?
- Since before I been here. - Oh, yeah.
It's been in the family since back in the early 1900s.
- Oh, wow. So you can't take any credit?
- No, none at all. None at all.
- What's sort of the perception of solar out here?
- Two years ago,
you couldn't talk to anybody about it,
but now more and more people
are trying to get 'em put on their homes and everything.
- Like a lot of America,
Georgia is fi lled with farmland...
vast sunny countryside
perfect for solar to assist wi th the incredible cost
of growing crops an d raising animals.
So not only do you have
to get all of the water pumped to all of this,
then you need to get all of this refrigerated.
- What? - Yeah.
- A farmer now, he going to have
over a million dollars ti ed up in just equipment.
- And what about your operating costs,
like utilities and stuff? Is that--
- That keeps going up, going up.
- In Georgia, the market fo r solar is controlled
by the energy commission ju st like Nevada.
There are currently no tax credits offered,
and the legislature has never required
utilities to produce renewable energy.
Part of my journey me ans finding activists
looking out fo r people like these farmers.
It turns out one from Georgia
had taken her fight to my own backyard.
- We want them to see
just how many people care about solar and energy freedom.
- Debbie is nobody's idea of a liberal tree hugger.
She's a founding member of the Tea Party,
she loves guns, an d she's leading the fight
for solar energy in America.
- I'm not the only one in the South
that's a Conservative that loves solar.
Conservatives, we don't want the government
telling us what we must do.
The customer's voice is drowned out by the voice of big money.
Individual liberty, energy choice, and jobs--
those are the messages that resonates with Conservatives.
- For years, De bbie and her friend, Kay,
have been fighting for the en ergy rights of Georgians.
- Welcome. - Thank you for inviting me.
Oh, I'm hugger, too. Nice to be here.
- Welcome to the South. - Thank you very much.
- We have set here and watched ou r farms deteriorate.
We've watched our kids leave because they need jobs,
and it's just been a sad thing for me.
So I tried to find out what I could do to help.
My goal was to help farmersbe more profitable,
and solar, it could help us down here.
You know, it's right there.
It can help us in so many ways,
but yet we're fighting against so mething that is just--
we can't win at this point. - You're shackled.
You're held captive to these utility companies.
They want to control it.
They want to stop competition from solar.
- Georgia power's th e primary provider
of electrical energy in the state.
They serve over 2. 5 million customers.
Their utility model is also the norm
for other parts of the country.
- Utilities don't like co mpetition.
They own electricity. It is theirs.
They don't want to change that basic relationship
between them and their customers.
They're not willing to change.
- The utility, the guys who play golf
and have the whale pants--
they own the production, th e generation of electricity.
They own the transmission, wh ich is the high power lines
that send the stuff ov er long distances,
and they own the distribution,
which are the power lines yo u see on your street.
And they're making ma ssive profits,
and there's no pushback.
- If you want to go buy an iPhone
or any other kind of consumer product, you go out to a store,
and you have a number of choices.
With electricity, in most of the country,
you really only have on e choice,
and that company ha s a monopoly.
- What they actually have is a government-mandated
In the early 20th century,
the government struck a deal wi th the utilities
to guarantee power was fed to ev eryone that needed it.
Even the farmer a hundred mi les from the city
was able to power his home be cause of this agreement,
but what was necessary a hundred years ago
isn't needed now.
We've come a long way fr om horses and buggies,
milkmen and silent movies.
The reason monopolies ar e illegal
is because they're bad fo r you, the consumer.
Historically, the government ha s done everything it can
to prevent one company
from controlling a product or service market.
Yet today, most of th e country's utilities
have remained a zero-competition business.
- Georgia Power announced that it will go ahead
with the completion of these tw o nuclear power plants.
The plant has been plagued by cost overruns and delays.
- The construction is years behind schedule
and billions over budget.
- In 2012, Georgia Power
convinced the state's public ut ilities commission
to approve the construction of two nuclear reactors
at the Plant Vogtle site.
- The project actually st arted out at $7 billion,
and the prices have escalated.
Now we're talking about $27 billion.
- Georgia Power customers
have been paying an extra hu ndred dollars a year
on their bills si nce 2012 for reactors
that won't start generating el ectricity until 2021.
- They mismanaged th e Vogtle project,
and all of a sudden, they have do ubled their profit.
Their profit went from $2.7 billion to $5.4 billion.
- You screw up, and you actually
get more reward for it.
- Absolutely. - Bingo.
- For utilities, bad business is good business
because their monopoly deal al so guarantees them
a 10% profit on anything th at generates revenue.
This includes the cost to build and maintain
their own publicly funded in frastructure.
- They want us to stay addicted
to their monopoly model.
I mean, they have a guaranteed profit.
They want to be able to build a central station power plant,
build the transmission lines,
do all of that hu ge infrastructure
because they get a guaranteed 10 % markup
to where the customer ends up wi th ever-rising energy bills.
In the business world,
those types of guaranteed returns don't exist.
- I think it's probably one of the most challenging times
in our business since Thomas Edison
founded it more than a hundred years ago.
- The trade association fo r electric utilities
that all these companies po ol money into,
they're called th e Edison Electric Institute.
They're one of the more powerful lobbying organizations
- As you know today,
the world's electricity markets
are radically different from the ones that existed
just 10 years or so ago,
so it's even more important th at we work together
to find ways to accomplish the goals
that I know utilities ar ound the world have.
- In 2011, they put out th is national-wide paper
known as "The Death Spiral,"
and it became all the rage within policymakers of,
"If we continue to allow rooftop solar to grow unbridled
"and truly, you know, create th is vision of the future,
the utilities around th e country will go bankrupt."
That was a brilliant move on Edison Electric's part.
- And the utilities' next move
is to get politicians to convince you
that their problem is your problem.
- We're gonna bring the coal industry back, folks.
We're gonna bring it back.
[cheers and applause]
We are putting our great coal miners back to work.
[cheers and applause]
- When you mention Kentucky, everybody thinks "coal."
I mean, that's just what it is.
Years ago, we had thousands of coal miners.
Every little town yo u see around here
was built from coal.
- So where we are now, we're in the power plant
built by the United States Steel Corporation
in 1914, '15, '16.
The fuel for this power plant came from the coal
on either side of the creek here...
Which produced electricity fo r the mines,
the mine offices, th e bathhouse, the church,
the school, post office, th e company store.
- For over a century,
the miners of eastern Ke ntucky worked tirelessly,
risking their lives an d their health
to keep the lights on ac ross the country.
- My family all were coal miners.
- Obviously, this country was built on coal.
- Yeah. - Coal miners are sort of
the backbone of the country. - Absolutely.
My dad worked 38 years in the coal mine.
He was 64-- 68 year old when he died.
He died of black lung. - Oh, he did?
- Yeah. - And you have--
- I do, and I do. I have it, too. Yeah.
- Black lung, a disease caused
by the inhalation of coal dust,
has cost this co mmunity dearly,
yet it's entirely preventable.
And is that something that slowly gets worse and worse?
- Oh, yes. Yes, it does.
- How many friends have you lost?
- Oh, Lord, hundreds. Hundreds.
I'm telling you, over 40 year, hundreds.
Your lungs affects every organ in your body,
your kidneys, your liver--everything.
- Coal is no longer th e juggernaut it once was.
It's been on the decline si nce the '50s.
At its peak, th e coal industry nationwide
used to employee 86 3,000 miners.
Today, it's less than 50,000. In eastern Kentucky,
that number stands at less than 4,000.
- The coal communities in states like Kentucky
were unfairly targeted by the Obama administration
as part of its war on coal.
- War on coal. - The war on coal.
- The war on coal.
- Coal companies and their coal associations
have been very effective at pushing this message
of a war on coal
and that it's been President Obama and the EPA
that has led to the downfall of the industry
in eastern Kentucky. It's just not true,
and, you know, what's so damaging to these communities
is when they still think th at there's hope
of a revitalization of the industry.
You're prolonging that decline,
and you're not allowing an y opportunity
to develop a new economy in eastern Kentucky.
- If you were able to have an influx of jobs
into this community here
and it was either reopening a coal mine
or it was wind or solar or another energy--
- I would open a mine.
- You'd open a mine? - I'd open a mine.
- Even with all the health consequences?
- I would. Why not use what we got?
Why not put these coal miners back to work?
Let them mine the coal.
- Or the Sun; we've got ton-- an abundance of sun.
- We need the coal--the people that live here needs the coal.
- I guess I'm trying to think, you know, on your side,
for example, so you have black lung,
so why would you want anybody to go to that job?
- I wouldn't want 'em to get the disease,
but I would want the jobs
available for 'em if they wanted it.
- First of all, they don't mi ne the coal like they did
years ago, underground.
They come in here,
and they take the mountaintops off.
- The majority of underground mines
that employed thousands of men ha ve shut down.
Pretty much only de structive mountaintop
and strip mining are left, an d many of the jobs
that would have been done by hand a century ago
are now carried out by machines
at a fraction of the cost.
- Coal is not coming back as far as big jobs,
and people oughta realize that.
- Eastern Kentucky people, they love to work.
They love to do a good job.
For what Kentucky minershas done
for the United Statesof America,
they should help us find a better way
than what we got now.
- Even as the demand for coal ha s declined,
it's the automation that ha s devastated employment,
but the promise of jobs in coal's return
is still a powerful party line.
- As we speak, we are preparing
new executive actions to save our coal industry
and to save ou r wonderful coal miners
from continuing to be put out of work.
The miners are coming back.
[crowd cheers and applauds]
- Another empty promise to people that need jobs
and could find them in an industry
that grows every day th e sun comes up.
- The clean energy economy has been demonstrated
to produce far more jobs, three, four,
and five times more jobs than the fossil economy,
and that's largely because wh en you invest
in fossil fuel-based energy sy stems,
you're literally pouring yo ur money down an oil well
or down a coal mine,
where most of that money is ac tually going to extraction.
But when you invest in solar,
you're investing in people an d companies and hardware.
- In 2016, there were only 50,000 coal miners.
In just this year, 50,000 new solar workers were hired.
- There's currently hi gh demand
for solar workers an d electricians
with projected increases in to the foreseeable future,
and unlike coal jobs, th ese are good, safe jobs,
but don't take my word fo r it.
Remember Osh? Le t's ask her.
- Working in solar is great.
I feel like I'm making a difference each day I go out
and I build solar for a customer.
It's nice. [laughter]
It's a nice fit.
We're out there wi th customers every day.
I'm helping them in saving mo ney and going green.
The pay is amazing.
I've gotten four raises in less than a year.
There's no other career that ta kes care of you like that.
It's an amazing, am azing industry to work in,
and we're just out here saving the world one roof at a time.
- Hi. How you doing? - Hey.
Good. Thanks for getting together.
- Very excited to talk all things sun.
In the very beginning, was there any opposition?
- In the very beginning, no, not at all.
When I started, we were just go ing as fast as we could,
just hiring as fast as we could
to put solar on rooftops.
- There were that many people that wanted solar?
- Yeah, absolutely,
and it was like that until the day it stopped.
- For Nevadans working in so lar, the news was grim,
and the fallout was immediate.
- It wasn't long ago ho pes for renewable energy
were dashed by the state agency
that's supposed to pr ovide fair
and impartial regulation of public utilities.
- Utility regulators ra ised rates
for rooftop solar customers,
prompting widespread layoffs in the fast-growing industry.
- Back in Nevada, th e consequences
of canceling net metering
were being felt not only by NV Energy solar customers
but by thousands of workers in the solar energy sector.
For NV Energy, Go vernor Sandoval
remained a loyal ally.
- There's a lot of concern about
rubber stamping the wishes, the desires
and the money-making ability of NV Energy here.
- Any of the savings, in terms if the rates are changed,
go straight to rate payers.
The company would not keep any of that savings.
- But they're probably going to get a whole lot more customers
if the solar industry goes belly-up,
which we're seeing happen,
you know, day after day in the last week or so.
- I don't know if that's necessarily true.
- What the heck is happening?
- They're handing us our last check,
saying that we will no longer have solar in Nevada.
We are unemployed.
Not just my job was taken away;
thousands and thousands of employees throughout Nevada,
their jobs have been taken as well.
- How many people di d you have to let go?
- Oh, it was a lot. It was a lot.
- How do you deliver that news?
- Oh. Um, with a lot of tears.
There's not a good way to do it.
"I'm sorry that we thought we had a good thing going here,
and it turns out we don't."
It didn't just affect us. It was just everybody.
- Devastating, ve ry emotional time.
I started a life here, and my life is here in Nevada.
I never imagined leaving Nevada.
- Personally, it's one of th e worst days of my life.
It was--it was tragic. There's no other way to put it.
- So how did they do it?
How did NV Energy put one of th e fastest growing industries
out of business overnight?
First, come up with a word th at no one likes
and use it a lot.
- As the rooftop solar industry has gotten larger and larger,
we've seen this subsidy grow.
- You have 17,000 rooftop solar customers.
You have 700,000 approximately NV Energy customers
who are essentially subsidizing that.
- We do not want the nonsolar customers,
of whom there are over a million,
to be subsidizing the 17,000.
- The customers who are participating in net metering
were not sharing in the costs of the pipes
and the wires th at actually get
the electricity to your home.
- That is just not true. Ev ery utility customer
pays their fair share. Lo ok at your utility bill,
and you'll see endless fi xed fees
that contribute to your share of the grid costs.
Some solar users are even ch arged additional fixed fees
by their utilities.
- Everything about a utility sy stem is about sharing costs.
You're sharing costs of infrastructure.
Otherwise, if you were at the end of the line,
like out in the middle of the desert somewhere,
you'd be paying a hundred times more
for your electricity th an the person
who lives ne ar the power plant.
- The transmission an d distribution
of energy customers use
is probably the most expensive pa rt of their bill,
but that's actually ho w solar helps the grid.
- Distributed solar helps all rate payers
'cause it lowers the grid costs.
We're producing energy du ring the day,
and that electricity go es onto the grid
during the most expensive times.
- Anya Schoolman went from so ccer mom to solar expert
when her family decided to put the power
of her neighborhood's en ergy needs to work.
There are solutions th at work for every house.
- Even like this: Oh, it's raining, it's cloudy,
not producing electricity-- Wrong, you're still producing.
We tried, yo u know, just to do it
on our house, and we called al l these installers,
and nobody wanted to come into D.C.
There was no companies in D.C.
It was just co mpletely confusing.
It was really expensive.
This is 12 years ago now, and I was like,
how about we get th e whole neighborhood,
and then we could save money by buying in bulk
and learn from each other,
and we started around th e neighborhood.
And so two weeks later, 50 homes have signed up.
- Oh, yeah, there's some new ones right there, too.
- Yeah, I actually brought the D.C. electrical inspector
to see his first solar panel.
You know, he's like, "L et me see this thing.
I've never seen on e of them before."
The utilities di d not want to do it.
We had to fight really hard.
I mean, they basically ha ve a playbook,
so it's undoing net metering, ac cusing solar
of being a cross-subsidy,
accusing it of being unfair, et cetera.
- After butting heads wi th utilities
for over three years, re sidents won their fight.
Citizens with solar panels we re able to take control
of their own sh ared energy resource.
- Organically, we went from neighborhood to neighborhood,
and it's thousands of houses at this point.
- Anya and her fellow ho meowners
solved their energy needs wi th solar,
but that was not the end of their efforts.
- And then a light bulb we nt off.
We started to get an idea th at allowed us
to expand the market an d lower costs for everyone,
and it's called community solar.
- With community solar, re sidents
can take advantage of commercial buildings,
parking garages, an d other large pieces of land
to erect large-scale so lar arrays.
Anyone can buy in to the system,
which is especially beneficial fo r people
without land or property wh ere solar can be installed.
Community solar also allows pe ople in apartments
to share in the benefits of renewable energy.
Panels put on th e building's roof
not only power in dividual units
but can also generate credits th at further reduce costs.
How much were yo ur electricity bills?
- This time of year, from running the AC living here
in Washington D.C., the electric bills
were anywhere from $150 to $200 to maybe $300,
depending on your size of your unit.
- A month? - A month.
- That's insane.
So how does that fit into all your expenses?
- Sometimes, you're working like two jobs
just to make sure your electricity
is paid versus your rent.
- So what's the difference
as far as your energy costs now?
- Our energy bills today,
as compared to before the solar panels,
it's cut in half du ring the summer.
- After they put them solar panels in,
I can buy more bread.
I can buy more milk, and it helps a whole lot.
- It must be amazing, too,
just to know that you can generate your own energy, too.
You're not reliant solely on anybody else.
- [snapping] It feels great.
- I believe that if any other American city
had control over their energy use,
they would do exactly what we're doing.
- Right. - But the problem is,
in every other American city, they're inside a state.
With the state legislature,
the utilities have this outsized influence.
They're usually the largest political donor in the state.
They often capture the public service commissions
that regulate it,
so to pass the bill that would do something like this,
even though it makes so sense to everybody,
the politics are really hard at the state level.
- D.C. was able to realize it s solar dream
because, unlike every other ci ty in America,
it's not in a state.
No state, no state government,
no state PUC and no st ate-sanctioned monopoly.
- The current way our energy economy works
is really regressive. It hurts the poor the most.
The less disposable in come you have,
the more you end up sp ending on electricity.
In that sense, the ability
to take control of your electricity,
whether that means making your house a little more efficient
or putting a solar panel on your rooftop,
that is a field-leveler.
- ♪ This little li ght of mine, Lord ♪
all: ♪ I'm gonna let it shine
♪ Oh, this little light of mine ♪
♪ I'm gonna let it shine
♪ This little light of mine
- Light has a biblical an choring to it.
It says, "Let there be light,"
and there was light, and it was light for everybody.
It was for the good of the whole.
Why should some company get a monopoly on that and say,
"Nobody can do this but us"?
all: ♪ This little light of mine
♪ I'm gonna let it shine
- Faith Community Church is known throughout Greensboro
for their social activism. Pa stor Johnson himself
has fought on the frontlines fo r civil rights
and the protection of his ow n community for decades.
- Nelson has always sought to be in the top
in civil rights for human beings.
He never wanted to be average, and he never has been.
- There's not a Christian fa ith where you sit back
and observe unethical things an d say,
"It doesn't affect me."
- Nelson has made some major impact in the community,
and his thing is, "As long as I have a voice,
"I refuse to be part of the silent majority
who sits and watches as things deteriorate."
That's been his modus operandi all of his life.
- Many of our parishioners
are those who earn less than a thousand a month,
working sometimes tw o and three jobs.
- One of the founding members of this church,
Sister Linda Jones,
she literally cut her pills in half, skipped days
in order to pay her light bill.
God bless her soul, she passed on,
and there are hundreds of people right around here
who need that help.
- When you have to decide whether you're going to
take your medicine or whether you're going to put on
the food on the table for your family
instead of having to pay the electricity bill,
something is not right, something is not balanced.
- It's a sin. It's obscene.
- So the question gets to be,
how do our kids ge t the best education?
How do we bring businesses? Ho w do we bring people?
How do we provide programming that will enable them
to have a better quality of life?
- There are a hundred bl ack churches in Greensboro.
They have acres of land.
They could build a community solar farm.
Their members see their church saving money.
That would spawn a whole new industry.
I can imagine young black men and women
getting trained right here in Guilford County
to service these churches and to service these homes.
I was getting very excited about the possibility
of a solar movement.
What was standing in the way of that
was the policies of Duke Energy
and the regulations of the utilities commission.
- In North Carolina, as in many states,
there are laws ba nning customers
from buying energy fr om third parties.
NC WARN, a nonprofit en vironmental group,
teamed up with Pastor Johnson to challenge that law,
installing a solar array on the church's roof
in hopes of driving down th e cost of energy
for those who need it th e most.
- They wanted us to join them to challenge this monopoly.
- They sent a cease and desist order
to our partner, NC WARN,
and told them th at they would be fined
something like a million dollars a day.
We were that much of a threat to them.
- Solar is the way to go, hey, hey!
- Far from laying down an d being intimidated
by the most powerful co rporation in the state,
what happened next wa s truly inspiring.
The church directly co nfronted Duke Energy
and took their case al l the way
to the state supreme court.
- I knew th at there were policies
and laws put in place,
but I have learned
to be discerning about policies and laws.
It was very clear to me
that I needed to be part of challenging the law
because that would open th e door
in reducing the cost of energy.
It would open the door to build unity between churches
and between cities. It had enormous possibilities.
- Oh, wow. There is no doubting
who is the most powerful company in the state.
That's pretty clear with that building.
It definitely looks like they could
financially draw out a legal battle
a heck of a lot longer than anybody else.
- Faith Community Church wa nted to test regulation
in North Carolina
by doing something that was basically illegal.
- They were trying to pick a fight.
- You could say that; they had a good setup to get publicity.
This was a African-American church,
and we're a big utility, and we're a target,
and sometimes there are groups out there--
they're not trying to advance policy.
They're trying to get media attention,
and they did a good job here.
- Are there situations where, as a human being,
you have a conflict as a utility company
where you're saying, "This is how it has to be,"
versus maybe "There's a bigger picture
with something that's broken"?
- I think that's just the way it has been.
- That's the worst explanation I've ever--
That--to me, when somebody says to me,
"It's because it's the way it's always been,"
we used to enslave people.
That is just the way it always has been.
- I think, you know, we have to operate
with the system we have in place,
and right here in North Carolina,
we have a regulated electric system,
and we're doing the best we can in our little sandbox here.
- Sadly, the North Carolina Su preme Court
ruled against NC WARN,
upholding the law pr ohibiting third-party sales.
All payments provided by the church to NC WARN
were awarded to Duke Energy.
It's just so frustrating wh en you see
how rigged the game is.
"You know, we just have to follow the rules.
It's the how it's always been."
Yeah, you set the rules.
You put in the politicians that were going to do your bidding,
and all these people here, everybody here, unfortunately,
they're the ones who are manipulated.
It is just an archaic old-boy system,
and they've essentially figured out a way to print money,
and they want to protect that.
Why would we allow government to be influenced
so easily by a corporation whose goal
is to maximize their profits regardless of the outcome
or the side effects of their product?
- When the marketplace is working,
when people are installing solar,
this is a big threat.
- Coal, petroleum, na tural gas,
the three primary fossil fuels,
today provide 87% of the energy globally.
There's a huge amount of money spent,
especially by the fossil fuel companies,
to try to influence anything they can
that makes their industry more profitable and able to grow.
- Two of the biggest co ntributors to lobby spending
have been Charles Koch
and his late brother, David.
The brothers' Koch In dustries Incorporated
is heavily invested in the natural gas industry.
Natural gas now accounts fo r over 35%
of our energy supply
and has played a critical role
in slowing our transition
to renewable energy.
They're billing natural gas
as being a clean option,
and I think they're comparing that to coal.
- They're not wrong. It's cleaner than coal,
but solar is cleaner than natural gas.
We don't emit an y carbon dioxide
or other harmful emissions.
- Its extraction by the pr ocess of drilling deep wells
and then setting off po werful explosives
leads to groundwater co ntamination, air pollution,
and increased fr equency of earthquakes.
- From 1975 to 2008, there was pr ecisely one quake per year
with a magnitude of 3.0 or over in Oklahoma.
It's now up to 40 quakes per year,
and you get all of those other and smaller quakes.
There were 2,600 quakes un der 3.5.
- Despite the environmental an d economic impact
of fossil fuels, ma ny in government
are still under th e Koch influence.
- So if you get campaign help from the Koch brothers,
you think you're gonna go around talking about
we need to transform our energy system?
I don't think so. I don't think so.
- When you look back over the years
of the last several cycles, hundreds of millions of dollars
in electoral politics, what have you gotten for that?
- I think there have been some good things,
particularly at the state and local level.
- Boy, have they ever.
Koch Industries have partnered wi th numerous lobbying groups,
including Ed ison Electric Institute
and many other firms an d think tanks
with locations al l over the country.
- You have states like Nevada, Florida,
Southern states that should be leading our country
and the world in moving to solar,
and they're way behind states like Vermont, by the way,
and that is the power of the Koch brothers.
It is the power of utilities and big money
who are saying to those states,
"My God, we have an incredible natural resource here.
Don't tap it."
- Florida gets 3% of its
electricity from renewables.
And of that,
only a fraction comes from solar.
But to people like the Kochs,
even the smallest threat is a target.
- Amendment 1 is putting home solar panels on the ballot.
Here in the Sunshine State, we rank 17th in the nation
when it comes to using that solar energy.
- Amendment 1 is one of the most controversial issues
that you're being asked to vote on today.
It's the Florida Solar Amendment.
- The Koch brothers' efforts-- they can't be as upfront.
- This ad is all over so cial media
telling you to vote yes
for Amendment 1.
It sounds pro-consumer,
but tonight, critics say it's really
a power grab for the power companies.
- They are always behind legislative
- Amendment 1 guarantees Ra y's right to generate
his own solar energy,
and Ray can sell energy ba ck to the grid.
That's good for Ray, go od for the environment,
good for Florida.
On November 8th,
vote yes on 1 for the sun.
- On its face, Florida's So lar Amendment 1
appeared to give customers wh at they were asking for.
- The way it's written is, th e first sentence
hits you right in the face and says,
"Boy, this is the greatest th ing in the world."
- Except it didn't.
- The amendment establishes a right
under Florida's constitution fo r consumers to own
or lease solar equipment on their property.
But we obviously already have the right--I installed it.
- We've heard from a lot of you about Amendment 1,
the solar amendment, saying that it's confusing.
- I'm not that guy who's, you know,
trying to wear a tinfoil hat
and think there's all these conspiracy theories,
but I honestly feel like
there's this effort to back the fossil fuel industry.
- There's nothing conspiratorial here.
This is way out in the open.
- So I'm not crazy? - Well, I don't know
if you're crazy or not,
but you're right on this issue anyhow.
- Big power companies like Duke Energy,
Florida Power and Light, and TECO
have been dumping millions of dollars
into this pro-Amendment 1 campaign.
- Buried in the ballot in itiative was language
that would actually
kill the rooftop solar industry in Florida.
- The amendment could allow ut ilities to kill programs
that made it worth in vesting in panels,
including net metering an d third-party leasing,
just like Nevada.
And how do we know this?
We caught them te lling the truth.
- Really? He told the truth? That's what happened?
- In September of 2016,
an audio recording surfaced of this man, Sal Nuzzo,
the vice president of policy
at the James Madison In stitute,
a Koch brothers-funded po litical think tank.
It explained how Amendment 1
deliberately misled th e public.
- They tried to deceive voters, and it's really shameful
and disappointing to see that this happened.
- It's like th ey don't even care.
I don't blame people
when they can't figure out what the hell to believe.
- Yeah, it's extraordinarily difficult to convince somebody
when the whole discussion
is happening outside of the factual world.
- These utilities spent $2 6 million
trying to pass
this ballot initiative,
and for most of the year,
it looked like they would win.
When we got that audio re cording,
we gave it to reporters th roughout Florida,
and people were un derstandably outraged.
- There's only one industry that is threatened
by your right to solar,
and it is the big utility companies.
- Last week, the union representing Florida's
professional firefighters wi thdrew its endorsement
after hundreds of its members complained.
- There isn't a real co nsumer group
that actually supports the Consumers for Smart Solar.
- Amendment 1, focusing on solar energy,
that measure has been rejected.
- That's the frustrating thing fo r me,
is it's the misinformation.
If I'm making a decision,
somebody out there can spend a bunch of money to confuse me.
- They came in, and hidden from view,
they ran this massive television ad campaign
based on falsehoods,
but people from all political persuasions said,
"Wait a minute. Th at's not fair.
We're not going to stand for this."
- Stopping Amendment 1 in Florida
was a small but important vi ctory for solar power.
The momentum was continuing ac ross the country
as many cities and states were em bracing the solar movement.
- A state district judge
has sided with solar energy advocates.
- Applications for solar panels--
permits roughly doubled.
- A clean energy bill ha s passed unanimously
in the South Carolina Ge neral Assembly.
- And in Nevada, the people we re making themselves heard,
and the politicians we re finally listening.
- An alternative energy source is poised
to make a comeback in Nevada.
- Rooftop solar will shine again in Nevada
after spending nearly two years under a dark cloud.
- Sandoval is taking action on that big battle
that's been going on be tween solar customers
and the Public Utilities Co mmission.
- Following the large-scale jo b losses
in Nevada's ro oftop solar sector,
political attitudes against ne t metering began to shift.
Everyone was concerned ab out the state's economy,
but what caught po liticians' attention
was that nonsolar customers
were as upset ab out the changes
to net metering as solar customers.
- When the legislators we re knocking on doors,
talking to their constituents during their campaigns,
they were asked, "What are you going to do about
"restoring the rights of residential solar customers
and our ability to choose solar"--
was one of the top questions
that came up during that campaign.
- There was obviously a backlash
where people felt that they were robbed of,
you know, their right to net metering.
- You don't breathe a sigh of relief
because you weren't robbed. You get pissed off
because your neighbor was robbed.
The governor recognized th at there was a problem
that had to be resolved.
- Was that in response to the people?
- He never said that, but I believe that it was.
- If you ever thought yo ur voice doesn't matter,
here's a clear case pr oving that wrong.
The people of Nevada ov erwhelmingly disagreed
with the PUC's changes to net metering laws,
and the governor got th e message loud and clear.
- Governor Sandoval could tell that being
an antisolar Republican in Nevada
is not good for his political future, and he reversed course.
That public utility commission
that had ended net metering in Nevada,
they all got sacked.
He appointed th ree new commissioners,
and within 12 months,
they completely reversed their decision,
so they restored net metering.
- The new law capped ho w much consumers
could make on net metering,
but despite that, th e news was positive.
Net metering wa s back in Nevada,
and most important, the Nevada le gislature passed a bill
enshrining the rights of customers to net metering.
- They did something that the rest of the country
hasn't done yet.
They created a renewable energy bill of rights
which enshrines Nevadans' right to choose solar for their home.
- AB405 let us come back.
It basically gave a bill of rights to the solar customer.
It let us start working again.
- Do you think that there will be another boom?
- I think there is right now.
It's not nearly as dramatic or radical as it was,
but we are moving in that direction.
- Nevada is a great lesson of how,
when utilities tr y to take away
peoples' rights to go solar
and try to charge people more for that unfairly--
if they go too far, people get really angry.
They want the ability to make their own electricity,
and when they feel that is th reatened by this big company
that doesn't have th eir best interests at heart,
they will fight back, and in Nevada,
they fought back, and they won.
- People coming together to demand the right
to create energy from the sun: it 's inspiring.
It's clear that solar has an abundance of advantages,
but like anything, it also has its drawbacks.
- The key limitation on using so lar panels is
the sun isn't always shining,
and at night, you have to have power from somewhere else.
- You have to produce el ectricity
at exactly the moment when you need it.
If the supply does not equal de mand,
the system will break.
- I'm not saying solar is flawless.
It has its hurdles to overcome.
Obviously, panels do n't generate electricity
when there's no sunlight.
However, ad vances in concentrated solar
and in home battery technology
are allowing power to be stored for more homes
when the sun isn't available,
but they're still ve ry expensive.
Also, in places that typically ge t very little sunny weather,
solar might not be co st-effective,
and while solar is getting cheaper,
the initial cost often di scourages people
from pursuing it as an option.
The life span of photovoltaic ce lls is about 25 years,
which is much shorter th an the life span of nuclear
or hydroelectric power plants.
The panels also use a number of hazardous materials
in their manufacturing pr ocess.
While most of the panels an d components
some of these parts ar e not recyclable.
Also, workers regularly run th e risk of having to handle
potentially hazardous ch emicals.
The manufacturing process al so produces
a tremendous amount of waste, so me of which can be toxic.
And generally speaking,
solar takes a lot of surface area
to produce a small amount of energy from the sun,
so growth in efficiency in panels
is going to be tr emendously important.
These are all challenges th at will take time
and money to solve,
but what seemed impossible 20 or 30 years ago
is being taken fo r granted today.
The remaining challenges fo r solar energy
will be solved soon,
but the problems th at fossil fuels have created
will take decades
and trillions of dollars to overcome.
- 70% of Af rican American communities
live within 30 to 40 miles
of a toxic-emitting power plant.
- Today, more than 26 million Am ericans suffer from asthma.
African Americans are three ti mes more likely to die
from asthma th an any other group.
- At least 30 to 40% of our young people
in this neighborhood are ac tually going to hospitals
as a direct result of the type of energy that's used.
There's an economic an d health justice issue
embedded in not having access to solar renewable energy.
- What are some of the health concerns that are directly
affecting this community?
- People dying of cancer, brain tumors,
and nobody could explain why they were happening.
- The soil itself is toxic, and it shows up in the food.
- What's causing this? - Coal ash.
- Coal ash is the highly toxic re sidue of burnt coal.
It contains arsenic an d toxic metals
linked to cancers, re spiratory problems,
neurological disorders an d birth defects.
- What do we want? all: Clean air.
- When do we want it? all: Now!
- I grew up within the shadow of that steam station.
Nobody told us not to eat the fish from the lake.
Nobody told me my air was polluted.
I noticed the sky was a little different color,
but nobody to ld me the problems.
Every morning, when we got up, th ere was such a thick layer
of coal ash on our vehicles.
Back in the '70s, th ey came in when I was maybe
seven or eight years old to build Belews Lake,
and I was so close to the steam station
where the coal ash was produced
that I could hear the workers talking.
The coal ash would be li ke a light snowfall.
We didn't think anything of it un til suddenly,
we realized th at there were diseases
breaking out th rough the community.
And finally, when a neighbor of mine went to the doctor,
the doctor said, "Oh, you live near Cancer Lake."
And we began to put tw o and two together.
- All of the stuff in the Belews Creek area is toxic.
- Is that a pretty affluent area?
- Belews Creek is a poor area.
- Every year, power utilities pr oduce
100 million tons of coal ash.
Most of the waste is buried
in the cheapest av ailable land,
places like Belews Creek.
- My grandfather wa s a sharecropper
who could only afford to buy some land
in a primarily minority community,
so I grew up in a minority community,
and that's where most of those power plants are located,
where the poorer people live. La nd is cheap.
People like us back then, we didn't know any better.
- They have a coal power plant
that they specifically positioned in an area
that they know is going to pollute the air
and pollute the water,
particularly in communities that don't have
the economic ability to fight back and go to court.
- What bothers me the most, you're living on land
that you inherited.You don't have the resources
to just move like somebody who's rich could do,
so you're just there, hoping and praying.
- A recent study of 242 co al-fired power plants
found that 91% ha d elevated levels
of toxic pollutants in nearby groundwater.
- We don't really know the truth of whether the water
we're now drinking is polluted,
and based on the history we've seen in this country,
we're not going to find that out.
- But it isn't that this is just some local problem;
this thing is much, mu ch bigger
than the 30 or 40 miles su rrounding Belews Creek.
That's where we are in this country.
- In 2019, North Carolina ru led that Duke Energy
must remove decades of stored co al ash from its utilities.
The cost estimated by Duke Energy
is more than $10 billion
and will take up to 30 years to complete.
The utility is billing it s customers for the cleanup.
- 2016, Duke Energy's profit was $2 billion.
In 2017, their profit was $3 billion,
and they're gonna tell us they can't afford
to clean up the mess that they made in our backyard?
If you are not affected by coal ash
and you're on Duke Energy,
you're paying for coal ash cleanup anyway.
They should pay for the cleanup
that they made billions of dollars off of,
making us sick for 40 years.
- That's right.
[cheers and applause]
- There's a hidden subsidy in the cost of energy
derived from fossil fuels.
The price we pay is not just th e billions of dollars spent
in cleaning up th e toxic waste,
but more importantly, in the lives of the people
exposed to the air an d water it poisons.
The damage fossil fuels ca n cause
means tremendous pain an d suffering for the victims
and their families.
My grandfather, Dan Scott,
was among th e countless people
who have died fr om coal-related illness.
So I have a personal concern
for the well-being of these miners.
Coal, obviously, is part of the legacy in your family.
- Oh, yeah. - But it's also what's causing,
you know, the young death in your family.
- Yes. Yeah, it is. - For you, in this area here,
what's the most important? Is it job creation?
Is it health, the economy locally?
What's the most important thing for you?
- Most important thing for me,
well, right now it would be my health.
- Would you recommend somebody become a miner?
- I would.
Let me say that another way.
I wouldn't recommend my children to do it.
No, I wouldn't. No, I would not.
No. I wouldn't let--
- Shortly after we spoke,
Billy Noble lost his battle wi th black lung disease,
leaving his wife wi thout a partner
and his children wi thout a father.
For big investors, so lar poses a risk
to more than just th eir utility interests.
An energy sea change po ses a threat
to billions of dollars spread ac ross dozens of businesses
in the fossil fuel sector.
Warren Buffett's Be rkshire Hathaway company
owns utilities in cluding NV Energy,
MidAmerican Energy Company,
and Pacific Corporation.
Revenues in 2018 to pped $19.8 billion.
They also own th e transportation companies
and pipelines th at move the energy resource,
including No rthern Natural Gas,
Kern River Gas Transmission, an d Kern River Pipeline.
They own the railways th at move coal, natural gas,
and oil across the country an d companies
that inspect the resource wh en it arrives.
They own the businesses th at insure these companies.
They own the companies th at pull the fossil fuels
from the ground,
and they own the chemical co mpanies that help it flow
across the nation as quickly as possible.
Koch Industries' tentacles re ach even further
into the fossil fuel sector wi th refineries across America
and heavy interest in pipelines
and other means of transporting fossil fuels.
One of their companies, Re iss Viking,
has a product it claims touches 40%
of the 1 billion tons of coal pr oduced every year.
The investor with quite po ssibly the most at stake
is BlackRock Inc.
Larry Fink's company co ntrols $11 billion
across more than 50 companies
investing in coal po wer plant construction,
making it easily the largest in vestor in the sector.
BlackRock also owns stakes in the parent companies
of Duke Energy, Georgia Power an d Florida Power and Light.
And to bring this full circle, on e BlackRock's holdings:
Warren Buffett's Be rkshire Hathaway.
With so much on the line,
it's clear that these co mpanies and their owners
have decided that the human co st of doing business
is far outweighed by the financial losses
that come with change.
Utilities are doubling down ag ainst solar.
In Arizona, $3 8 million was spent
to kill a pro solar bill,
and in Nevada, Wa rren Buffett's NV Energy
was about to make the 30 million spent in Florida
look like chump change.
- Or maybe the most controversial and expensive
showdown in Nevada state history.
- 3 proposes to amend the state constitution
to allow customers to choose
which company they buy electricity from.
- That would effectively end NV Energy's state-regulated
monopoly stranglehold on your power rates.
- Even though Question 3
would end NV Energy's mo nopoly in Nevada,
the utility pledged to accept the results
regardless of the outcome.
- And if the state decides that some form of deregulation
is the right thing to do for the state of Nevada,
then we're gonna roll up our sleeves and get down to work.
- But instead of rolling up th eir sleeves,
NV Energy reached de ep into their pockets
and spent almost $63 million on misleading information
meant to kill the measure.
- Nevada public safety groups have joined together
to oppose Question 3.
- 3 would dismantle ou r state's
existing electric system
and eliminate co nsumer protections.
- The goal was to strike fear in to the hearts of voters.
- It would also eliminate
Nevada's current rooftop so lar program.
- It could also lead to power shortages.
- Higher electric bills
especially hurt small businesses.
- Higher electric rates especially hurt those
who can least afford it.
- Unreliable power for air conditioning
and home medical equipment th reatens lives.
all: Vote no on 3. - And the campaign worked.
Question 3 was Florida's
Yes on 1 all over again,
but this time, the same game
plan of scare tactics
and misleading information de livered for the utility.
The measure, al ong with the hope
of a free ut ility market was killed.
Once again, money talked.
- Last night, all questions on the Nevada ballot
passed with one exception, th e most controversial one,
Question 3, th e Energy Choice Initiative.
- One sector in particular is catching fire.
Check out energy,
leading the market today, an d up more than...
- And the oil certainly he lping the sectors out,
but it's really th e only one...
- We're seeing al l of our sectors
in the economy pick up.
- They've got $220 million of profit.
- And it will be in commercial op eration early this year.
- And, again, you will ma ke money off that.
- Yes, sir. We sure will.
- I'm not saying it 's hopeless,
but it is definitely gonna be an uphill battle.
I didn't put panels on my roof for financial reasons.
We know what is happening to the planet,
and we know that we need to do something.
[soft, dramatic music]
This is not about your party or the color of your state.
This is about people.
This is about their lives, their wallets, their planet.
Going around the country and talking to all these people,
you know, I'm realizing we all want a better,
healthier life for our families,
for our children.
Whether you're fighting to save the planet or to save money,
we all win if things change.
I think the solution's the same.
We want the people in power to protect the people they serve.
The only way it's gonna happen
is if we fight together and make it happen.
All of these people wh o are supposed to be there
for the people, they're doing everything
they can to stifle what the people want,
and it's the most frustrating thing
I think I've ever experienced.
- It's definitely not the way American democracy
is supposed to operate, and I have a--well,
first of all, cheer up because there's a lot of great stuff
going on at the local level and at the state level.
I get a huge amount of energy from the business community,
the NGO community.
There are now 70 cities in the U.S.
that have made a formal commitment
to reach 100% renewable energy,
and quite a few of them ha ve already done so.
- The Lone Star State is famous
for being the biggest oi l producer in America.
Now the Texan city of Georgetown
is aiming to ditch fo ssil fuels altogether.
- In the late 1990s, the State of Texas
deregulated the electric generation market.
We could then go into the open market
and buy generation ourselves,
and we didn't know at that time
whether it would be renewable.
We just knew we needed flexibility.
We had 40 plus bids on wi nd energy and solar energy.
The two sources combined
produce enough re newable energy
to keep the city renewably powered.
- Renewable power has been go od for our businesses.
Certainly we have some of our major employers
that really see it as a benefit.
- We're a red city in a red county in a red state,
and it's a well-known fact that I am a Republican.
I've been a Republican for a long time.
Renewable energy is supposed to be this left-wing theory
You put these silly national partisan politics aside,
and you can do things that really help everybody.
And you have al l these wonderful
What else is there left to argue about?
That argument is over.
- Though Georgetown has proven th e technology works,
it struggles wi th its financial model
and currently produces mo re energy than it can use
or even sell,
but it's far from the only ci ty seeing progress
in the growth of clean energy. Ho nolulu, Hawaii,
has the most solar capacity in stalled per capita.
In Florida, the Jacksonville so lar farm generates
enough power for 1,500 homes,
and in 2017, Wo rcester, Massachusetts,
opened the largest mu nicipally-owned solar farm
in New England. Th e city expects the project
will pay for itself in only six years.
These cities ha ve something in common.
They have the means to make big,
impactful changes to their energy system.
They also have leaders who put in credible effort and energy
into making sure th ings happen.
For the rest of us, however,
not having resources or strong leadership
leaves us at the mercy of politicians,
utilities and a rigged system th at they've put in place.
Most Americans re main powerless.
My motivation to tell this story
started out as environmental.
It quickly became social,
and before I knew it, it was personal.
What I learned is th at great things can happen
if people decide th e most important thing
is to help other people.
And not far from th e simple solar install
that started my journey,
I found a shining example of how this can work,
how fixing the system is possible,
and most important,
I met people that have taken in credible steps
to provide for those wh o are desperately in need.
Way out in the dry, cr acked Arizona desert,
I found hope.
- Welcome to the Navajo Nation. - Thank you very much.
- I'm Deenise. - So nice to meet you.
- [indistinct] Scott. - Pleasure to meet you.
- Thank you for joining us on this very special day.
We're celebrating new beginnings.
- The sun. - Exactly.
- You're celebrating the sun.
- Exactly, we're celebrating the sun.
- This is impressive. Wow. - Isn't it?
- In an area just south of Arizona's Monument Valley
is the Kayenta Solar farm,
the Navajo Nation's first ut ility-scale solar plant.
- For years, people didn't th ink anything like this
could exist here on the Navajo Nation.
It's our pride and joy right now.
- I love it.
Not just a testament
to the engineering brilliance of the Navajo Nation,
Kayenta represents so mething far more important:
hope and independence.
- We always had to rely on somebody else.
If we didn't pay so mebody something,
if we didn't give somebody something, we wouldn't get it.
Whereas this project, we built it.
We planned it. We designed it.
We get the benefits from it.
- But it wasn't al ways this way.
The Navajo Tribal Ut ility Authority
traditionally purchased mostly co al-generated electricity
from third parties at a cost
of nearly $30 million pe r year.
- Because we're not a energy pr oducing entity,
we were dependent on outside entities
to provide us the power.
It was expensive, an d the costs were increasing.
- And to make matters worse, th e money was leaving
the community an d not being reinvested.
- We're a nonprofit entity.
All the revenue th at we generate
goes to the benefit of our customers,
but still we had 15,000 homes wi thout electricity.
They may have electricity at work, at school,
but when they get home,
they don't have access to electricity.
- My mom, she waited he r whole life,
and now she's gone. She never had any power.
The only thing that I have power out here
is a power generator,
and I went through about three of them, you know?
- You just don't buy th at 1 gallon
or 2 gallon gas for the generator.
You gotta buy gas for your vehicle.
That one gas trip that's done pr obably two times a week
ends up being pretty expensive.
- We're forgotten people out here without water,
That's how I was raised.
I had to buy kerosene lamp.
I spent a whole lot all these years because of that.
Our kids, they move into town
where the light is.
I want my daughter home.
- Faced with 30% of homes in the Nation
still without power,
in a bold and forward-thinking mo ve,
the NTUA decided they needed
to get into the energy ge neration business.
- Technology is finally
becoming affordable to the point
that solar was an option that co uldn't be ignored anymore.
- The solution was to embrace so lar technology
and build the Kayenta So lar facility,
which would allow the NTUA to expand services
to more customers wi thout power.
- Right now, the Kayenta Solar facility
does feed into 18,000 homes.
Once electricity reaches a traditional homestead,
then the younger generation moves home
so they can raise their families.
So the money that's generated fr om our people
is turned right back in to the community.
We have a little ov er 700 employees,
and we would like to extend electricity
to as many homes as possible fo r the first time.
- That's what NTUA wa s built on...
Taking care of our own.
- [speaking language]
- Yeah. Yeah.
- It brings me pe rsonal gratitude
to provide fo r our communities,
for our children an d grandchildren.
- All right!
- Just a flick of a switch...
- And a light turns on.
- It takes your breath away, really,
when you provide a family wi th this thing
that a large part of the U.S. po pulation take for granted.
- Thank you very much, you guys.
- It gives us a sense of empowerment.
- [speaking language]
I was raised without electric--nothing.
No running water--wagon, horses, and it's good feeling.
- In our culture, the sun is a powerful symbol,
and it brings us life. It sustains life.
We consider th e energy generated
as an additional blessing from such a powerful source.
- The Kayenta field is a story ab out using the power of solar
to transform a community...
What a view right there.
Hold on. I need a picture of this.
Which is I'm here today to break ground
on one of the most inspiring di scoveries of my journey:
the Navajo Nation's Kayenta II So lar Project.
- A Momentous occasion for the Navajo people and NTUA,
and I just wanted to welcome you here
and thank you all for being a part of this.
- Energy democracy at work, bu t fields like this
are only part of the solution.
To make real me aningful change,
we need a major shift to solar and other renewables.
I've traveled all over the country,
met people from all different walks of life,
and their stories have made one thing become abundantly clear.
The energy revolution isn't just coming.
It's already here.
Solar technology is better than ever.
It's clean, affordable.
It's a proven job creator,
and it lessens our dependence on fossil fuels.
That's why utility an d energy suppliers
are hell-bent on controlling it.
I think energy choice represents everything
that makes this country great: innovation,
And don't get me wrong-- I think utility-scale solar
is an amazing option.
It just can't be the only option.
For many of us, th ere are alternatives
at our fingertips.
Net metering is on the rise in America,
and renewables are being ad ded to energy mixes
in cities across the country.
Community solar is becoming a reality
for more and more lo w income neighborhoods
and is becoming a possibility
for people in dense urban areas.
Most importantly, homeowners
and landowners ar e opting for solar
and building a future wh ere everyone benefits.
Because what I want is for us all to think big.
Let's be insanely ambitious
and have solar for everyone become a reality.
There are plenty of renewable en ergy options to embrace,
but the sun is an incredible resource
that can provide us wi th more power
than we'll ever need
with none of the fossil fuel si de effects.
Solar panels ar e just the start.
Before you know it, we'll have so lar shingles on every roof.
We'll drive on highways pa ved in solar technology,
and buildings li ned with solar windows
will be capturing th e sun's energy,
and that's just the beginning.
All of this is possible, an d it starts with you.
And look, if you're not quite there yet,
just ask yourself a simple question:
where does my power come from?
Or is this the right option for me and my family?
And if not, you can fix it. I promise, you have the power.
- ♪ If I'm bein' honest
♪ I'm angry and confused
♪ All it really takes
♪ Is a little bit of truth
♪ Is that so hard
♪ 'Cause if we're bein' ho nest ♪
♪ Something's gotta change
♪ Enough's enough, so wake up ♪
♪ We're all bein' played
♪ At the end of the day we 're not the kind ♪
♪ To give up hope an d fall in line ♪
♪ We're better than this
♪ If we're bein' honest